Posted by Martyn
Taiwan TV is the new China cool. Mainland cable TV offers several Taiwanese TV channels and the programmes have proved extremely popular in China. Taiwan’s freer society influences the TV programmes made there and these influences, in turn, have now caught on to dreary Mainland TV. Not surprisingly, therefore, Beijing’s puritanical officials want to put a stop to it. In September, yet another new set of rules were handed down by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, China’s broadcasting authority, to halt the ‘creep of vulgarity and non-Chinese influences’ into the programs offered up by the 3,000 national, provincial, city and county stations in Mainland China:
Masters of ceremony on state television’s seemingly endless roster of variety shows, the regulations said, should avoid vulgarity, dress modestly and uplift their young viewers. “Hosts and hostesses represent the image of radio and TV stations and therefore have an unshakable responsibility to spread advanced culture and national virtue and to safeguard the country’s interests and avoid unhealthy news stories that will mislead the public” the authorities decreed.
I try to avoid CCTV and the other state-controlled channels at all costs. Unfortunately, however, I don’t live alone. When flicking through the TV channels in China it’s fairly easy to spot which programmes are from the Mainland and which are from Taiwan or Hong Kong. Mainland programmes are a bit, er, dull. Horribly conformist presenters and their vacuous, stiff and dreary guests battle it out over who’s haircut is the most uninspiring and vapid and who’s clothes are the most instantly forgettable dark shades of gray and blue. Their staid performances also reek of mind-numbingly dull respectability.
Taiwan TV, in comparison, is an orgy of outrageous individualism, unpredictability and vibrancy. Sexy, flirtatious, wildly-dressed, extroverted and highly-opinionated men and women provide hours of amusing and provocative banter. One of the most popular Taiwanese shows in China is Kangxi lai le (康熙来了), an entertainment talk show hosted by former pop starlet turned TV presenter Ms. Xu Xidi (徐熙娣) and her outrageously camp co-presenter Mr. Cai Kangyong (蔡康永). Ms Xu has extremely short-cropped hair, wears very flamboyant outfits and has a tongue like a whip. Mr. Cai, with his bouffant hair do, outrageous clothes and iniquitous style is a well-known and openly gay TV star. There are no Mainland equivalents of Xu and Cai.
However, one less obvious stipulation in the rules regards the use of standard Mandarin Chinese. Presenters must stop using “cool” Taiwanese and Hong Kong slang and accents:
To millions of Chinese, particularly boys and girls in the provinces who constitute the main audience for pop-oriented variety shows, Hong Kong and Taiwanese speech has come to mean being cool. As a result, some hosts and hostesses of mainland variety shows have taken to throwing Taiwanese slang words and Hong Kong tones into their on-air speech, associating themselves with the cool radiating from those two centers of the Chinese-language pop industry.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.